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Portrait of MUT Design Studio

Sitting among the 12 new prototypes prominently displayed within MUT Design’s al fresco iteration of the annual Das Haus installation at IMM Cologne this January, the influence of the Spanish vernacular resounded. Since establishing their Valencia-based practice in 2010, co-founders Alberto Sánchez and Eduardo Villalón have garnered widespread admiration for graphically reimagining quotidian objects, acquiring a growing list of clients from their native Spain to Italy to Japan. 

As Sánchez and MUT designer Pola Knabe told Azure during the fair, this success has been informed as much by their Mediterranean roots and proximity to local manufacturers as by their uncompromising commitment to an unhurried, confidently open-ended approach. “It’s never done!” Sánchez says of the firm’s latest product for German manufacturer Pulpo. “I’m already thinking about changing the dimensions.” Here are a few of the hallmarks of the MUT method.

Turn mandates on their head.

When companies want to work with us, they typically understand our creativity. They may say, “I need a chair,” but often don’t specify what kind of chair. If we get a brief, our process begins with research. But sometimes, we may take a turn in another direction as something far more interesting might emerge. In that case, we try to convince the client of our design instead.

Keep it small.

For us, it’s really important that the manufacturers we work with are not huge. We are much more comfortable dealing with smaller companies or family-run businesses, where we can control the process and have greater interpersonal communication. With larger manufacturers, this can be quite difficult and the result can be a product we are not happy with. Our studio is also very small: five of us all working together on the same projects. Though each of us covers certain fields, we always try to find time to sit together and share our thoughts.

Do what’s best for your design.

Though we launched the Aspa tables with Pulpo this year, we actually began working on the product with another company. But it was stuck, as they weren’t as experienced in handling glass. We really liked the design and this idea that, when you are in different positions, you are seeing different intensities of colour due to the planes overlapping. Eventually, we called the manufacturer and asked if we could sell the concept. You have to do what’s best for your design.

Take it slow.

Companies normally ask us to complete a design proposal in one month, but we always try to negotiate more time. Generally, we prefer to work with a very strong concept. We take our time, think and sometimes stop the project entirely, revisiting it again weeks later to see if we like what we’ve made. We really love to stay in the process.

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Successful products require balance.

For us, the concept, the design and the functionality of a product should all have the same importance. We want to create something beautiful, of course, but not completely useless. Our Roll chair, for example, does not look like a typical indoor seat. Roll is more a conceptual version of a chair. But it’s comfortable to sit on; it’s stackable, small and does not take up a lot of space. It’s always a balance between art and functionality. We want to be recognizable by our designs and not for a kind of aesthetic.

5 Things We Learned from MUT Design

The key to success for the Valencia-based studio? Stay small, go slow and relish the process.

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